Gift honors long College-PKY lab school partnership

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida and its K-12 laboratory school, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, have a long history of collaboration dating back to 1934, and now each will benefit from a $100,000 gift from one of the lab school’s former teachers.

Stephanie Wester, P.K. Yonge’s only fifth-grade teacher when she taught there in 1957-58, and her husband William J. Wester, both retired and living in Gainesville, have pledged the money to create an endowed scholarship in UF’s College of Education. The Stephanie Kornprobst Wester Endowed Fellowship will support deserving UF graduate students in education who are conducting innovative research or teaching projects at P.K. Yonge during their advanced degree studies.

“I didn’t get my degrees at (the University of) Florida, but it’s my husband’s alma mater and I’ve come to think of it as mine, too,” Stephanie Wester said. “I loved teaching at P.K. Yonge, and the school and the College of Education always work so hard together. P.K. Yonge has some exciting plans for the future and my husband and I want to help out and be a part of that.”

Stephanie has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Kent State and a master’s in reading education from Johns Hopkins University. Her husband, William, earned two UF degrees, in physical education in 1953 and electrical engineering in 1958. He is retired from Westinghouse, where he worked from 1973 to 1996.

UF’s College of Education established P.K. Yonge in 1934 as a model school to test its teaching theories and curriculum innovations and to provide practical teacher training for its undergraduates. The college and P.K. Yonge shared the new school building (located on the southeast corner of UF’s campus) until 1957, when the lab school moved a few blocks south to new quarters at its current location. The college took over the old school building and renamed it Norman Hall after former education dean James W. Norman.

“In 1958, I marched my fifth graders from the old building to the new school along with all the other P.K. Yonge students, from kindergarten to high school. That was an exciting time and the kids were absolutely thrilled,” Stephanie Wester said.

Mrs. Wester regrets she had to resign after just one year at P.K. Yonge, following her husband that summer to Long Island for his new job. Her 25-year teaching career took her to schools in Miami, Gainesville and Baltimore, plus three more years as supervisor of student teachers at Salisbury (Md.) State College.

After nearly a half-century away, the Westers moved back to Gainesville in 2005, with their loyalty to UF and P.K. Yonge still intact.

“Stephanie Wester taught at P.K. Yonge during one of the most critical times in the history of its 78-year partnership with the College of Education,” said Glenn Good, in his first year as UF dean of education. “Through their gift, the Westers now offer support at another exciting juncture, as P.K. Yonge embarks on a total campus revitalization to evolve into a model learning community and a 21st century technological powerhouse.

“Good things seem to happen at P.K. Yonge when Stephanie Wester comes around.”


WRITER: Larry Lansford, Director, COE News & Communications,; 352-273-4137